Prime Minister Narendra Modi played the Pakistan card during his Gujarat campaign on Sunday, alleging that the hostile neighbour was meddling in the elections to the state assembly, and questioning some senior Congress leaders’ recent meeting with Pakistan officials, including the country’s high commissioner to India.

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The Congress was quick to deny the charges and asked Modi’s government to repatriate Pakistan’s top diplomat in the country if he was indeed meddling in an Indian election.

Addressing a rally in northern Gujarat’s Palanpur, Modi referred to a Facebook post by former director general of the Pakistan army Sardar Arshad Rafiq, saying that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel should be the next Gujarat chief minister. The post was covered by a section of the Indian media.

Minutes later, Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, hit out at Modi. “It’s a foregone conclusion that he has abdicated the politics of development in both action and words. But does it befit the stature of the Prime Minister to rely on canards, rumours & lies just for an election? This is very sad,” Patel tweeted.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister continued his attacks on the Congress and its suspended leader Mani Shankar Aiyar over the latter’s “neech aadmi” (low-class man) jibe at Modi. The Prime Minister drew a connection between Aiyar’s remark and Pakistan’s interference.

“There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice president and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” Modi said. Adding that they met for almost three hours, he said : “The next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said Modi was ‘neech’. This is a serious matter.”

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The dinner meeting was held on December 6 at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence in Delhi during the visit of Pakistan’s former foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri to India. The following day, Kasuri was present at a talk hosted by Ananta Centre, a Delhi-based think-tank, titled, ‘The Current State of India-Pakistan Relations’.

According to sources, those who attended Aiyar’s dinner and the discussions that preceded it included former Army chief Deepak Kapoor, former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, and former diplomats Salman Haidar, TCA Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, K Shankar Bajpai and Chinmaya Gharekhan, among others. Bajpai, Raghavan and Sabharwal had served as Indian High Commissioners to Pakistan. Former PM Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari were also present at the dinner.

When contacted, Aiyar, who has been suspended from the Congress’s primary membership for his derogatory remark on Modi, refused to comment. “Why should I say anything?”

The Congress reacted sharply to Modi’s comments on Sunday. The party’s national spokesperson Manish Tewari said : “Modi is back to the same old Pakistan bogey. It was Mian Musharraf in 2002… Sir Creek issues in 2012, and now he’s talking about Pakistan’s interference in Gujarat polls. If Modi thinks that Pakistan is meddling in Gujarat polls, why doesn’t he expel the Pakistani high commissioner in India?”

This isn’t the first time the BJP is referring to Pakistan in an election campaign. Last year, ahead of the Bihar election, which JDU and Lalu RJD won massively the BJP said if the Congress won, fireworks would go off in celebration in Pakistan.

Another Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said Patel himself had dismissed recent rumours that he would be made chief minister if the Congress won.

The Congress also came out in defence of Singh and pointed out that as Prime Minister he never went to Pakistan in 10 years. “Is Modi suggesting Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari are untrustworthy people? It’s not Singh but PM Modi who went to Lahore and we got (the) Pathankot terror attack” Tewari said.

Earlier during 24-12-2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi made surprise visit to Pakistan, attends Nawaz's grand-daughter's wedding for a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in a surprise visit to this country the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier in more than 10 years.

Modi unexpected visit received by Sharif with a warm hug at the tarmac of Allama Iqbal International Airport after his unexpected stopover here on his way back home after a day-long trip to Afghanistan where he went after concluding a two-day visit to Russia on Thursday.

The BJP has governed Gujarat for 22 years. The Congress is hoping to unset the BJP by tapping angst over the agrarian crisis and the implementation of the goods and services tax, and on the strength of a coalition it has built with Patidars, some other backward classes, and Dalits.